Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

8/8/2008

My Current View on the Presedential Race

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 8:45 pm

Considering how close things are and that there's still nearly three months left before election day, I'm not yet willing to make a money bet on this race.  I think, though, McCain has the edge, which sounds completely absurd right now since it's conventional wisdom that Obama has the edge.  What I find interesting is how Obama is barely ahead of McCain in any polls (and even behind or tied in others) and this is after a good deal of media attention and his big world tour.  With the many GOP issues and that McCain isn't exactly a wow candidate, Obama should be putting McCain away – but he ain't.

Obama seems to be peaking and at a bad time; it's better to peak in late October than early August.  The bloom is starting to come off the rose.  His move to the center after sitting on the left for the primary has been abrupt and bungled.  For example, deciding to drill offshore after denigrating the idea as recently as two weeks before.  The problem with these moves is that the voters who are meant to be attracted by them aren't buying it and the liberals who supported his liberal positions are feeling betrayed by the new more centrist positions.  He's trying to be more appealing to moderate and conservative voters, but I'd wager his ham-handed approach is resulting in a net loss of prospective voters.

Another factor to take into account is Obama's perceived personality.  Candidates always have a personality that gets attached to them that is often like a Saturday Night Live caricature.  Bush is dumb, Kerry was a rich aloof snob, Gore was boring and stiff, Clinton was an impulse-indulging horndog, Dole was old and cranky, H.W. Bush was slightly oblivious, Reagan was forgetful, Ford was clumsy, etc., etc.  Obama didn't start off with a caricature.  This is partly due to his gifts of rhetorical presentation and controlling his public persona, but also because he's somewhat of an empty suit onto which it was hard to put a tag.  With being fully in the national eye for just four years and with having no major accomplishments beyond getting elected to higher offices, no one knew how to pin him down.  Increasingly, though, he's coming across as arrogant and as someone whose rhetoric with questionable substance is wearing thin.  Obama's presidential seal, his presedential tour meeting with European leaders (who, it should be noted, may have met with him not only because they may have liked him, but also because if Obama could be president, they don't want to snub the man now and irritate him), the press accounts that he and his campaign staff are acting like the election is a fait accompli, the near messianic flourishes in his speeches, the unusual adulation of his supporters – all this is contributing to a developing Obama narrative that is unfavorable, especially compared to McCain, the worst of which for him is that he's old.  In the next couple of months, this caricature is likely to take greater hold and erode some of his support.

I'm not enamored with McCain, though I did vote for him in 2000 (I didn't like either Bush or Gore and wrote McCain in on the ballot, knowing that mine was definitely not a swing state).  I do, however, think he'll be a solid president, especially with foreign policy.  He's also running a smart campaign with a good use of humor and internet advertising with viral videos.  He also seems to be minimizing the age issue.  When Bob Dole ran in 1996, he got pegged as being a bitter old man, in part because he was trying to present himself as the grown-up alternative to Clinton.  This was unfortunate since Dole did and does have a magnificent sense of humor and a quick wit.  Despite being about the same age as Dole was in 1996 and with similar wartime and senatorial credentials, he is being careful to let his humor come through and not seem like an angry uncle the rest of the family avoids.  I think we could see a slow trend his way and away from Obama.

On a related note, it's a shame Obama decided not to participate in the town hall forums McCain proposed, but it's not surprising.  Obama gives a great sounding speech, but he's often terrible when off-script and off the teleprompter.  There are lots of uh's and bungled phrasing that make Bush sound like Cicero by comparison.  McCain would probably eat him for lunch.  Instead, we'll get the same usual three "debates," which are actually little more than a series of scripted speeches by the candidates.  Dull.  I've always thought they'd be much better if the candidates, you know, debated each other.  It's also funny that Obama begged off a few debates with Hillary Clinton because he found them unproductive and merely series of speeches and now this is all he wants to do.  It's another sign that he's trying to play it safe and protect his lead.  In football terms, he's running the ball a lot, playing defense and hoping not to make a mistake.  That's fine, but you lose the initiative and gives incentive to the other team to be more daring.

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